U.S. labeling rules cost Canada hog farmers $2 billion: group

Mon Jan 14, 2013 2:02pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - U.S. country-of-origin meat-labeling rules have directly cost Canada's hog and pork industry more than $2 billion, according to a report that could help determine retaliation against U.S. exports if Washington does not change its requirements.

The United States must bring the labeling rules, known by the acronym COOL, into compliance with a World Trade Organization ruling by May 23, 2013, according to a WTO decision released last month.

But citing no apparent movement by the U.S. Congress since the original WTO ruling in mid-2012, the Canadian Pork Council released an estimate of damages on Monday. The council called on Ottawa to impose retaliatory tariffs on imports from the United States if there is no change by the WTO deadline.

"COOL continues to cost hog and cattle producers tens of millions of dollars every month and must be dealt with sooner rather than later," said Jean-Guy Vincent, a Quebec hog farmer and chairman of the Pork Council.

The labeling program has led to a sharp reduction in U.S. imports of Canadian pigs and cattle because it has raised costs for U.S. packers by forcing them to segregate imported animals from U.S. livestock.

Some U.S. groups have said COOL offers consumers valuable information about the origin of their food.

The Pork Council's report, written by economist Ron Gietz, calculated that the labeling rules had cost Canadian farmers $2 billion in lost hog exports by the end of 2012, plus an additional $442 million in reduced pork shipments and suppressed prices for feeder pigs.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has soundly criticized the U.S. labeling program, but said on Monday it's too early to assume the United States will not comply with WTO rules before the deadline.   Continued...